The Wacky World Of Signing Day

Steve Murray
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Wednesday - February 10, 2010
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Ah, national letter of intent day, when the fancy of middle-aged men turns toward well-built high school boys.

After months of courtship, the promise of unending devotion and the whispering of sweet nothings into the ears of impressionable youths, the hookups have been made and love is in the air. Had these connections occurred in the name of NAMBLA and not the NCAA, such relationships would be really disturbing. Seriously. Those dudes need counseling.

As it is, the recruiting of high school athletes is, at best, a strange world of hype, hope and unrealistic expectations with million-dollar careers hanging in the balance.

Former Indiana basketball coach Bobby Knight compared recruiting to prostitution. Knight went overboard with this one, but no one can question the spirit of the comment.


Offering paid help to recruits is an age-old accusation, as are other sometimes-questionable enticements. Conferences and the NCAA itself were created to stop widespread cheating, and critics of Lane Kiffin would argue that nothing much has changed.

But those are concerns for another time. This is a time of celebration. Letter of intent day is the eternal spring of annual anticipation.

Each year highly paid “experts” break down film and rank thousands of athletes to let us know who is going to make our team an instant contender and who was an embarrassing waste of a scholarship.A high ranking means temporary job security for coaches, and failures to break the four-star barrier mean condemnation and the ire of angry message board traffic.

So who do you believe? Whoever ranks your team the highest, of course. USC fans know without uncertainty that Rivals.com has the best information, while Scout.com is completely clueless. Supporters in the Pacific Northwest would beg to differ. Scout says Washington had the 11th best recruiting class in the country. Rivals’ appreciation for the Huskies comes 17 spots lower. Notre Dame fans think both rankings are moronic, as the Irish can come no closer to the top rung than No. 14.

Hawaii fans will be nearly as miserable, but for different reasons. To too many, Scout’s No. 81 ranking and Rivals’ No. 65 is yet further proof of the program’s decline from the glory days of June Jones, when the team’s recruiting rankings were eerily similar. June’s final recruiting class came in at No. 85 for Scout and No. 73 for Rivals.

So how did UH really do? Wait three years.

Until then, it’s all guesswork. In 2005, Scout listed UH at No. 83 with John Fonoti getting one star, and Adam Leonard, Solomon Elimimian and John Estes two. The year before, Ryan Grice-Mullen was a one-star running-back and Keala Watson a single-star lineman. It’s safe to say the experts missed on a few of those. They also can go wrong in the other direction. In 2002, Chad Kilimoku was given five stars by Rivals. We may have to chalk that up to a typo.

To paraphrase UH baseball coach Mike Trapasso, I’ve never heard a coach rate his recruiting class poorly. As such, it is no surprise that Greg McMackin is singing the praises of his recruits, even if all the real big names in the state bolted for greener pastures.

And believe it or not, this class’s standing did not hinge on the decision of V.J. Fehoku.

In a few years we will know if experts were correct.

What we do know is that UH filled its needs on both sides of the line of scrimmage while adding depth at receiver and cornerback. Whether they got quality or quantity remains to be seen.

The Warriors signed five offensive linemen, none of whom made the Honolulu Star-Bulletin‘s three-deep All State team. David Lefotu is the highest rated, getting three stars by Scout.

UH brought in seven defensive linemen, of whom Beau Yap may have the biggest upside. At 6-feet 2-inches and 230 pounds, Yap is currently too small to be an every down contributor. But he has plenty of room to put on weight, and if he can add strength with his 4.7 speed, he could become part of a long line of talented UH defensive ends.

Moses Samia (6-2, 250) is an athletic lineman who was named third team all state for two years in baseball by the Star-Bulletin, and it will be interesting to see what the staff can do with 6-foot-7-inch Desmond Dean. The D-lineman had 12 tackles for loss, six sacks, 20 quarterback pressures as a senior and anchored the school’s 4x100-meter relay team. The hope is he’ll be closer to Ikaika Alama-Francis then Tony Akpan.

UH is set at receiver with seniors Greg Salas, Kealoha Pilares, Jovonte Taylor and Malcolm Lane, who returns after taking a year off to concentrate on academics. But the experience tails off quickly after those four, which explains the five newcomers at the position.


The most intriguing of those are 6-foot-5-inch Darius Bright and 5-foot-7-inch Allen Sampson. Bright gives the Warriors legitimate size on the outside and should be expected to contribute immediately after two years at City College of San Francisco. Sampson is blazing quick but tiny.

He’s listed anywhere from 142 to 155 pounds, and has been described with the highly subjective designation as being the most exciting player on this two-time state championship team. He did catch 56 balls for 867 yards and averaged 31.6 yards per return as a senior.

But he’ll need to hit the weights and double up on the rice if he is going to survive playing such an important and active position.

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